At Native Nutraceuticals we do not feel it is enough to simply use natural, organic ingredients in our products. It’s important that our products, our company and our practices are in harmony with a sustainable and healthy world.
For example, we have recently been formulating a heel butter to treat dry and cracked heels. We’re proud to say this product will be launched in 2022. A key ingredient in this is white birch bark we extract with jojoba oil. Birch bark contains a large molecule called betulin that has been found to increase circulation, heal wounds and is also an excellent emollient. Betulin is what makes the bark of birch trees white and is grown by the trees to help protect them from the sun. Birch bark can be simply peeled from living trees, however, the tree is damaged in the process. We had a very difficult time sourcing birch bark that we could guarantee was collected without damaging standing birch trees.
How Do We Sustainably Source Our Bark?
We found an answer to our problem when we contacted a man named John Lindman who owns the Bark Canoe Store of Metaline Falls, Washington. John is an expert on making birch bark Canoes the way Native tribes, like the Ojibwe and Abinaki, did for hundreds of years. The white betulin is a white waxy material that’s absolutely insoluble in water. What makes betulin good as an emollient for your skin also helped to keep birch bark canoes impermeable to water. John’s written books on how to build birch bark canoes and even gives classes to Native tribes to help rekindle this lost art form.
It’s always been part of Native American culture to use as much of a harvested plant or animal as possible, so not to waste and to minimize damage to the environment. In the same spirit, John sources his birch bark from lumberyards who mill birch wood. Generally, during the milling process, the lumberyards scrape off the birch bark and turn it in to mulch. Rather than collecting birch bark from living trees, John has made an arrangement for lumberyards in Alaska and Siberia to sell him spent birch bark for use in his canoes. John now sells birch bark to Native Nutraceuticals from these sources, sometimes his scraps and sometimes full sheets. Nevertheless, we know the bark is from already spent trees.
What is Chitosan?
Another example is the biopolymer called chitosan that is used in our Restore Antifungal Nail Solution. Aside from killing fungus, this molecule has become popular for many different reasons, including the coating of wound bandages to accelerate wound healing, the coating of berries to hinder mold growth, as a fertilizer for accelerating plant growth, and as a chelate to precipitate water impurities. Because of this the market for chitosan has suddenly become large. We wanted to make sure we weren’t obtaining chitosan from companies who were harvesting crustaceans simply for converting their shells into chitosan. We also wanted to make sure that the crustacean source wasn’t from farms that contaminated the environment. We therefore have teamed up with a company called Tidal Vision, of Bellingham, Washington, who make chitosan from shrimp and crab shells discarded from the local shrimp and crab industry. They also use a one-step process for extracting the chitosan which minimizes impact on the environment.
For the most part, Native Nutraceuticals sources the dried plants used in our products from Sakari Farms of Bend, Oregon. Sakari Farms is owned by Upingaksraq (which means "the time when the ice breaks") Alaska Schreiner. Spring, as she is known by to most, is of Inupiaq tribal lineage and was brought up in Valdez, Alaska. She was a child when the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill occurred. Her father played an important role in negotiating a settlement for the damage this disaster did to Indigenous fishing. This experience fueled Spring to study Natural Resource Management and Psychology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, and to ultimately start a farm where she teaches children, and adults too, the traditional Native methods for growing and using plants in an environmentally friendly manner.
Many of the plants used by Native Nutraceuticals, including marigold, sweetgrass, lavender and white sage, are grown at Sakari Farms. Others, like sagebrush and usnea lichen, are gathered by them from local fields and forests. Native Americans consider seeds precious. Spring is part of a movement started by indigenous women, called rematriation, which is focused on bringing “the sacred back to the mother”; or bringing balance back to our world. In support of this movement Spring founded the Central Oregon Seed Exchange to ensure the purity of seed used to supply food plant medicine to tribal members. Though most of the products of Sakari Farms are sold to tribal members, Native Nutraceuticals is proud to obtain produce we can trust from Sakari Farms.